I often dream, very vividly, of a place I haven’t been to for over a decade. I often dream of its streets, its people, the small shops, coffee in little white mugs, more like teacups than the clunky vessels meant for the darker, stronger stuff. I dream of the smell of freshly baked bread wafting up the street from the small bakery just across the narrow road from the hotel I called home for those few weeks in Paris. Sometimes, he walks the streets with me, holding my hand, as the sun sets behind the buildings, peeking its last rays through wherever it can find a place. He was never there with me. He was never there at all.
Last night, my mind placed him there during my sleep and for those quick moments, it is so real, it is so beautiful, it is so amazing. He is on the Metro, the next train over, going in the opposite direction and I see him. He is healthy, he is smiling. He has all of his hair, the long, dark red hair that separated him from all of the other boys growing up. I catch his eye, he grins, wide and hungry to laugh. His hand, his right hand, goes up to the glass and I see he’s holding a photograph. From my train, seated and fighting the urge to get up and go to him, to grab his face and kiss it and cry into his chest, curl into his arms and let him hold me, I look closer at the photograph. It is me. In it, I am laughing, and kind of half spinning in the street, and it is raining. It’s black and white and grainy, but I know it is me because I remember that night. I blink my eyes, the photo changes. It is me in the parking lot at the park, the changing autumn leaves like an ocean of color behind me, rays of sunshine, bright behind me. Again, I blink, and again, the photo changes. This time, it is me sitting in a chair in what I know to be the room he died in at the hospital, my hand reaching forward and holding what I know to be his hand, our friends, his family in the background. I finally know that I am looking at myself through his eyes. That these are not just photographs, but his memories, of me, and he’s showing them to me. He speaks to me, saying “I miss you. I love you. Everything will always be okay. Always. Trust me.” I know he’s speaking, but I don’t hear him, I can’t hear him. I read his lips from the other train and then we’re both moving, in opposite directions. I’m twisted in my seat, reaching back, willing the train to stop, to go back, to put me where he is. I know he is facing forward, facing the direction his train is moving. I know he’s not looking back. I know he can’t because he’s not where I am and I know he’s not turning back because I can see him, as if I was a passenger on the same train, watching him. He looks down at the photograph, and even though I can’t see it, I know it’s changing, I know it’s me he’s watching on the paper, I know it’s our memories he’s reliving on that train, underground, in the city I dream of often.1 notes / 8 months ago / reblog
On Friday, I left him beautiful, deep purple and ivory calla lilies, tied with green and white ribbon to purple tulips. I bought enough flowers to make two bouquets, one just a bit smaller, to leave for his father, who lies two graves to the left of his. I never buy any greens, no baby’s breath, no fillers, just the flowers. They are always purple, no matter what kind of flowers I choose that day. I always try to bring him peonies, because they’re the most beautiful flower, like he was the most beautiful man, but they aren’t always in season. I always tie the flowers with a green ribbon because it was lymphoma that took his life, green being the color of the lymphoma support ribbon. I always choose the music for the ride to the cemetery so carefully. On Friday, it was Barton Hollow by The Civil Wars - the same album that I listened to over and over again on the long ride to and from the hospital during his last few months. I honestly don’t know if it made it better or worse, the familiar melodies ringing in my ears, the notes of each song thumping in my heart, the lyrics, both eerily appropriate and so emotionally distant at the same time.
I know if I had the cancer, if it was me that died, he would leave flowers for my mother. I’m not so sure he would take them out of the plastic and tie them with a ribbon, or choose yellow flowers because it’s my favorite color. Maybe I’m not giving him enough credit. Maybe he’d special-order peonies, in season or not, just for me. I don’t know; frankly, it doesn’t matter because I’m here, I’m living, and he’s the one that has gone. Until Friday, only his brother knew that it is me that leaves two identical bouquets, one large, and one small, for him and his father, at their graves when I visit. After a bottle and a half of wine and hours and hours of staring at the very woods I ran through with him as a child and a teenager, I told my best friend about it. It felt like this secret that was bursting at the seams of me, that if I didn’t get the words out of my mouth, I might pass out from holding onto them. She looked at me, maybe a little surprised, and then said “he would have left flowers for your mom because he loved you, and that’s why you leave them for his father, because you loved him.” I don’t know if I was looking for the justification that her words gave me, but somehow, she knew that was what I needed to hear. Somehow, she knew that I almost, on some level, felt wrong for leaving flowers for both of them.
I sat in the kitchen of the house I grew up in, for what felt like an eternity on Friday night. Sipping wine, slowly numbing the pain, drying the tears. Remembering him. Staring into the woods, almost willing him to walk through them and into the yard, just like he did so many years ago. I thought of the words that recently came from a friend: “I know you’re coming up on a year since you lost him. Maybe you won’t have to think about what you were doing on this day last year anymore.” I had not thought about it in that sense. It is true, there is something that will change now. Yet, even as I type them, knowing they are true words, I am thinking in the back of my head that it was one year ago today that I typed my first entry about him here - just three short days after he died. That every day in that last year, I have thought of him and of us, of our kisses in parking lots or while he laid in a hospital bed and I leaned over to gently kiss his forehead as he slept and I slipped out of his room to get a cup of coffee, some fresh air, to cry where he couldn’t see me. That some days in the last year, I spent more time imagining what our life could have been, if there wasn’t any cancer, than focusing on what I needed to be doing at the time. That many days I didn’t want to get out of bed, simply because the weight of it was too much. That every night I laid my head down on my pillow knowing that I had gone another day without him and if I’m being completely honest, some nights, I was proud of myself for having done that. Many nights, I am proud of myself for pushing through, but mostly for keeping him in my heart, the place he lives now - fiercely pushing me along, lighting fires when I need them, rushing to quiet the noise when it becomes too much, finding a way to continue to hold my hand, so I’m never truly alone.
And one year later, here I am. I made it.3 notes / 9 months ago / reblog